SOS: Time to attack the Taliban / Sipah-e-Sahaba hideouts in Quetta.

Who will stop Shia killings in Quetta? Pakistan or the USA?

US demands urgent action in Quetta
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
Friday, 02 Oct, 2009
Mr Feierstein said the US believed that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas.— Photo from AP/File

ISLAMABAD: The United States stepped up pressure on Pakistan on Thursday, asking it to dismantle what a US embassy official described as Taliban’s command structure in Quetta, commonly known as the Quetta Shura, for the sake of securing peace inAfghanistan.

The diplomat did not rule out use of drones against what he called Quetta Shura.

‘In the first instance, we will like the government of Pakistan to move aggressively to prevent the use of Pakistan’s soil (by Taliban) in this way… we hope the GoP will take steps to arrest these individuals,’ US deputy chief of mission Gerald Feierstein told journalists.

He said action against the Quetta Shura was imperative for stabilising the situation inAfghanistan.

He insisted that Taliban leader Mullah Omar was in Quetta along with other senior leaders and operated freely. ‘They move around, sometimes they go to Afghanistan, sometime to elsewhere in Pakistan, but fundamentally they are in the area.’

When asked repeatedly if the US would launch drone attacks against Taliban targets in Quetta, he said predator issues were not discussed in public and that the focus was currently on getting cooperation from Islamabad for addressing the issue.

The statement is probably the harshest criticism of law-enforcement agencies to date by aUS diplomat. The issue was previously referred to by the Americans only as a passing remark, or was attributed to unnamed officials because of intelligence and diplomatic considerations.

Analysts believe that the US is gradually building up pressure. The International Security Assistance Force’s Commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, in his recent assessment report to President Barack Obama said that the Taliban leadership in Quettawas behind a surge in violence in Afghanistan where July and August were the deadliest months for US troops in the eight-year war. Earlier this week, US Ambassador Anne Patterson had said that the Quetta Shura was high on American agenda.

Mr Feierstein referred to Gen McChrystal’s assessment and said everybody understood that part of the problem was in Balochistan.

The Kerry-Lugar bill on aid passed by the Congress on Wednesday and now awaiting President Obama’s approval requires the US secretary of state to certify that Pakistan has dismantled terrorist bases in Quetta.

But no one in Pakistan expected the US to launch such a tirade against Pakistan.

Before his trip to the US, President Asif Ali Zardari had been cautioned in a policy document that an orchestrated campaign had been launched by the US to shift the focus away fromAfghanistan to Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism.

Americans believe that the top Taliban leadership is present either in refugee camps or in the Afghan neighbourhoods of Quetta. US intelligence official believe that Mullah Omar collects funds and dispatches fresh fighters and weapons from his Quetta base.

Mr Feierstein rejected Pakistan’s position that the Quetta Shura was an outdated concept with most of its members having been killed or arrested. He said new people had replaced them and the ‘issue remains there.’

When asked if the government had accepted Washington’s demand for action against the Quetta Shura, he said: ‘It is a matter of ongoing discussion.’

The US diplomat appeared to be sympathetic towards the difficulties Pakistan could face in cracking down on Taliban’s alleged network in Quetta. ‘There is no confusion on our part that it is an easy or simple task.’

He said the American leadership was very clear that fixing the problem in Pakistan would not end the imbroglio in Afghanistan. However, he insisted that elements of the crisis could be addressed by Pakistan’s action against Taliban.

Responding to a question about allegations of Taliban sympathisers in Pakistan’s intelligence network, he said: ‘Are there individuals who have sympathies with the Taliban? That is fairly established that this has happened, certainly we have seen it.’

The issue is one of major western concerns and believed to be the cause of poor intelligence on the Quetta Shura.

However, the US official categorically stated that ISI as an institution did not support Taliban.

He revealed that some of those sympathisers had been arrested by Pakistani authorities.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit dismissed Mr Feierstein’s claim as baseless speculation and asked the US to come up with proof of Taliban’s presence in Quetta.

Defence analyst Brig (retd) Shaukat Qadir said the Americans were losing the war and were trying to find excuses. ‘Some time back I went to Quetta where both Baloch and Pakhtuns told me that Taliban did not exist in the city.’

Mr Feierstein also said the US believed that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was hiding inPakistan’s tribal areas.

He questioned President Zardari’s claim made last month that Osama was dead, saying he was very much alive.

However, he said that Al Qaeda chief’s operational capacity was severely restricted because of action against his group. He said he doubted if Osama was still in charge of Al Qaeda’s day to day affairs. (Dawn)

Mullah Omar in Quetta, Osama in FATA: US diplomat

* Quetta-based Taliban shura planning to launch attacks in Afghanistan * Some individuals in ISI supporting Taliban

ISLAMABAD: The top leadership of the Taliban, including Mullah Omar, is based in Quetta and Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden is in hiding in FATA, Deputy Chief of the US Mission in Islamabad Gerald Feierstein said on Thursday.

Talking to reporters, Feierstein said the US “strongly believes” Osama was operating from Pakistan’s Tribal Areas near the Afghan border.

He told reporters that the Quetta-based Taliban shura was active and planning to launch attacks on the US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

The US diplomat also said US officials believed Quetta had become the control and command centre of the Taliban.

Feierstein skipped questions about potential US drone strikes in Quetta, but said Washington had conveyed its concerns to the government of Pakistan about the Quetta situation.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit warned against any drone attacks in the region.

“Balochistan is not FATA, and so we are in touch with the US on this and we have conveyed our concerns. And we will continue to raise our concerns,” he said.

ISI: The US diplomat also said the top Afghan Taliban leaders moved freely across the Pak-Afghan border and attacked US and NATO forces at will.

Feierstein said the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was not supporting the Taliban at the institutional level, however, he claimed, some individuals in the agency had been supporting the insurgents, but “such elements have been arrested in the past”.

He said Inter Risk security agency had been providing security to the US embassy and its personnel in Islamabad, adding that it was working in accordance with the law and regulations set by the Interior Ministry.

He rejected the presence of Blackwater officials in Pakistan, saying that the US embassy had an agreement with Inter Risk for providing security to its staff.

Feierstein said the US was building the capacity of Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the NWFP police, the Intelligence Bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency and the Frontier Corps in order to enhance their counterinsurgency abilities. app/daily times monitor